Exactly what does the assessor do…. a look into the job of Susan Altieri

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Photo by Shirley Murtha.

Susan Altieri, Town of Granby Assessor.

Granby residents are probably aware that their annual tax bill is determined by the value that the Town Assessor places on their property. Seems like a simple job, right? Definitely not.

Town Assessor Susan Altieri considers herself a “technician,” following the rules and regulations set out by state statutes, but her job is quite complex. By October 1 of every year, she needs to have established the market value of the town’s real estate, personal property and motor vehicles. She does this for Granby residents, the town staff, attorneys, builders and contractors, real estate agents and appraisers. She must discover, list and value all property in order that the tax collector can send out accurate tax bills. The real estate property includes houses, condos, commercial and industrial business properties, public utilities and land (farm, forest, open space). Some of the tax exempt properties in Granby include the state- and town-owned properties, the churches, the Granby Land Trust and the YMCA.

Sales are tracked by sales price, style, building materials and neighborhood, as well as construction costs. In dealing with sub-divisions, each parcel is valued separately. For example, the new Copper Brook development requires 34 individual valuations.

All deeds are recorded in the town clerk’s office and sent to the assessor. The new owner of record is recorded in the assessment records and all sales are verified and qualified by the office. Qualified sales are those involving a willingly participating buyer and seller. Unqualified sales include foreclosures, trusts, estate or distressed transactions. Altieri notes that “Sometimes I think I should have a law degree to interpret all the different types of deeds!”

This year’s hail storm resulted in a flurry of activity that still continues in the assessor’s office, as permits for new roofs, siding and other repairs, increased well over the normal level. Everything from the Building Department trickles down to Altieri. This normally involves new construction, additions, putting in central air, pools and barns as well as the usual number of new roofs and siding.

Personal property of town businesses is another category of real estate that must be tracked and valued. This includes furniture and fixtures, machinery and equipment such as copiers and computers, along with any equipment that is leased. Also included are telecommunication towers and antennas and all the cables, conduits and pipes that are associated

Not to be forgotten: motor vehicle property must be valued. This includes cars, trucks, campers, trailers, snowmobiles and motorcycles. In addition to the given valuation, adjustments are needed if the vehicle is sold, totaled, donated or registered out of state. Considering that these activities involve the Department of Motor Vehicles, one can imagine the difficulty of the tasks.

It is also the assessor’s job to identify those who are qualified to receive exemptions or tax benefits. This include the elderly, veterans, those who are disabled or blind and those in active military service. Public Act 490 provides a special assessment for farmland, forest and open space as well. Applications for the elderly tax benefit may be filed annually only between February 1 and May 15. The applicant must own his or her own home, be 65 years or older and meet certain income guidelines. The town has its own local programs in addition to the state, and Granby’s income limit is higher than the state’s, so it pays to apply to both.

If a taxpayer disagrees with the assessment when the notification arrives, he or she may make application to the Board of Assessment Appeals, which will review the case. The BAA will interpret the state statutes and educate the property owner. If the board agrees with the taxpayer, the information will be communicated to the assessor.

The assessor’s office must submit reports of the Grand List totals to the State Department of Office and Policy Management on an annual basis. Additional reports include the lists of elderly, veterans and disabled so that proper reimbursement can be rendered back to the town.

On top of all this, the state requires revaluation every five years. Granby’s most recent one was October 1, 2017 and the next one will take place October 1, 2022.

To perform all these functions, the assessor must be state certified, which she is, and continue to take refresher courses, which she does. In fact, more than once, Altieri has received awards for her professionalism. Both the Connecticut Association of Assessing Officers and the Northeast Regional Assessors Organization have recognized the quality of her work. These awards reflect the pride that Altieri takes in achieving the department’s goal to be fair and equitable while building trust and credibility with Granby residents and the others who do business in the town.

Altieri hopes that residents will go to the department’s website (granby-ct.gov/assessor), which she updates on a weekly basis. This site includes the assessor’s actual “field cards” of residents’ property and includes property values, photos of the property, current and previous tax rates, revaluation information, tax exemptions, GIS maps, information on how to appeal, and forms for applications. Visiting this site frequently can also keep residents abreast of potential and new legislation that may affect Granby.

Altieri also invites residents to visit or call the office in Town Hall with any questions. Office hours are Monday—Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday—8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday—8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.